AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi audio streaming tech and. There's now a second-generation version. But what is AirPlay 2, what will it be able to do and what products will you be able to use it with? We'll explain all.

AirPlay 2 is now available, appearing in iOS 11.4 - the latest full release version of iOS.

  • Update to Apple's long-running AirPlay protocol
  • Offers multi-room and stereo pairing for HomePod

AirPlay 2 opens up a whole world of multi-room streaming capabilities that were previously not available on the iPhone or iPad. AirPlay 2 also ushers in multiroom compatibility for the HomePod.

AirPlay was first introduced in September 2010, having previously been called AirTunes for audio-only streaming.

The basic premise of AirPlay and AirPlay 2 is a system comprising a sender and a receiver. The sender is something like your MacBook or iPhone, and the receiver is an Apple TV or third-party speaker, such as a Sonos device. All devices need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

AirPlay 2 introduces some features around controlling multiple speakers to the iPhone and iPad. Previously you needed a macOS device to do this with AirPlay. 

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AirPlay 2 is rolling out now as part of iOS 11.4. The full list of compatible devices is as follows:

iPhone

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5S

iPad

  • 12.9in iPad Pro (first generation)
  • 12.9in iPad Pro (second generation)
  • 9.7in iPad Pro
  • 10.5in iPad Pro
  • iPad (2018)
  • iPad (fifth generation)
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2

iPod touch

  • iPod touch (6th generation)

Apple TV

  • Apple TV 4th Gen

MacBook and MacBook Pro

  • MacBook: Late 2009 or later
  • iMac/iMac Pro:Late 2009 or later
  • MacBook Air: 2010 or later
  • MacBook Pro: 2010 or later
  • Mac mini: 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro: 2010 or later

In other words, anything made more than seven years ago isn't supported for AirPlay 2.

  • Control multiple speakers from the iPhone or iPad
  • Multiple users can add songs to one playlist
  • Multi-room for HomePod 

Apple AirPlay 2 adds speaker control to the Home app, meaning you can individually control all of your AirPlay speakers from your iPhone for the first time. Note, however, that the speakers will need to support AirPlay 2.

This is something that can already be done using a MacBook with iTunes, but iOS devices have lacked the ability. 

Considering it's more down to the phone sending the audio signals to the speakers, we expect any streaming service you have installed on your iPhone to be able to work with AirPlay 2 speakers.

When you play music from your iOS device, you can select which speakers around your home you want it to be sent to and control individual volumes of those speakers. These controls can be found in Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone's screen.

One feature that Apple has said is possible with AirPlay 2 is the ability to play different songs in different rooms, although only Apple Music subscribers can take advantage of it. You can simply ask Siri to play one song on one speaker, and another on one in a different room.

Another new feature with AirPlay 2, is the ability for multiple users to add songs to one playlist. Say you're at a party, and one person has their iPhone as the music source, playing Apple Music.

Other Apple Music users will be able to send songs they want played to the source iPhone, to save having to connect and reconnect several phones.

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  • Wide range of AirPlay 2 speakers expected in the near-future
  • Some current AirPlay speakers can be upgraded with a software update

AirPlay 2 will work in harmony with Apple's very own HomePod smart home speaker. While it can be used as a sort of Amazon Echo, to answer questions and control smart home products, it has audio at its core.

While the HomePod will use Apple AirPlay 2 to stream from the phone, the majority of its music playback will come from its own direct connection with your Wi-Fi. 

But it's not just Apple's speaker that will be compatible, as a rather illustrious list of hi-fi companies that have pledged their support to AirPlay 2. The companies signed up include:

Yes and no. Some manufacturers, like Naim and Libratone, have confirmed that you'll be able to simply run a software update on the speaker to benefit from the new features, but others will need you to buy a completely new speaker. 

Libratone has confirmed that its current range of Zipp and Zipp Mini speakers can be upgraded to meet AirPlay 2 requirements, but a similar thing can't be said for Bowers & Wilkins AirPlay speakers.

The A5, A7 and Zeppelin Air will still be able to work as AirPlay speakers, but they won't be able to reap the full benefits of the new technology.

Sonos has confirmed the Sonos One, PlayBase and Play:5 will all be AirPlay 2 compatible via software update, and because they create their own mesh network with other Sonos speakers, compatibility will extend to those too. You will however need one of the three speakers mentioned for this to happen.

Provided you have tvOS 11 (which is already available) your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well, rather than just coming from your iPhone or iPad.

Furthermore, Apple has suggested that whatever speaker is connected to the Apple TV, be it a soundbar or speaker system, that would automatically become a de facto AirPlay 2 speaker. Now that is pretty cool. 

AirPlay 2 will also be able to be used with other HomeKit devices to create scenes. Imagine coming home and not only your lights coming on to welcome you but a fanfare of trumpets played through AirPlay 2 supporting speakers.

On a more serious note though, you could use it to alert you of certain things that are happening - like an alarm - or merely that part of your evening routine is to have music played at a certain time automatically without you having to worry about turning it on. 

Siri takes on a prominent role with the arrival of AirPlay 2 and multi-room audio. You can tell her which speakers you want music playing on whichever speakers you have dotted around your home, and you can even ask her to play different songs on different speakers. You're not just restricted to using Siri with the HomePod either, as she will play nice with any other third-party AirPlay 2 speaker. 

Yes, don't worry! Want more? Check out the best iPhone tips and tricks